Protect Your Teeth with Dental Sealants
What are dental sealants, and how do they work? Sealants are usually applied to the permanent (adult) molars in children and teens. They are thin medical-grade resin coatings applied to the deep grooves in the chewing surfaces (known as pits and fissures) of molars and premolars. More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with particularly deep pits and fissures are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by filling the deep grooves to create a smooth, easy-to-clean surface without removing any tooth structure. Sealants can last a long time, but they must be monitored for wear and chipping at your regular dental appointments.
Dental Sealants Protect Against Decay
Dental sealants are considered a preventive form of dentistry. The procedure aims to prevent decay rather than treating it; it’s straightforward and doesn’t require any numbing. Once applied, sealants typically protect against 80% of cavities for two years and against 50% of cavities for up to four years. This should be enough time for your child or teen to establish good snacking and cleaning habits. Like any restorative material though, poor at-home care can erode these protective measures and permit cavities to take hold.
The Dental Sealant Process
Dr. Duffy or the specially trained dental assistant will use a small brush to clean the tooth surface receiving the sealant. This is necessary for the sealant to adhere to the tooth surface effectively. We may also use a dental drill using a delicate technique to gently clean your child’s tooth grooves. An “etching gel” will help the sealant adhere to the tooth’s surface. Finally, we’ll rinse out the gel and dry the tooth.
Next, we apply the same super-strength dental glue we use on permanent fillings, followed by the sealant itself. A “curing” light will harden the seal to the surface of the tooth. Our final step is checking that your child’s bite is still functioning correctly and making any required modifications.
Can Adults Get Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are most often associated with children because they are a valuable tool in fighting tooth decay. However, a sealant can deliver the same benefits to an adult. We may recommend sealants for adults who: 1) are more prone to cavities due to severely pitted molars or crowded back teeth that make cleaning difficult, 2) have poor snacking habits including sticky, starchy foods (i.e. chips and crackers) which are easily lodged in the grooves and pits, or 3) have disabilities or are otherwise unable to perform proper dental hygiene habits.
The Pros and Cons of Dental Sealants
Protects against developing cavities
Quick, simple 30-minute process
Improves oral hygiene
Can save money that might be otherwise spent on fillings, crowns, and other repairs
Only protects the back molars
Won’t work if the tooth already has cavities
Don’t last forever
May not be covered by insurance for adults
Do Dental Sealants Need to be Replaced?
Dental sealants can last many years but will lose their effectiveness over time. We will check your dental sealant every six months when you come in for your regular checkup.
Dr. Duffy advocates replacing them whenever their bond to the tooth starts to break down at the edges. Our goal is to avoid bacteria and debris becoming trapped, starting a cavity under a worn sealant where it can be difficult to detect in the early stages.
Dental sealants also tend to get worn down a lot faster with people who grind their teeth, chew on ice, or open items with their teeth. All of these factors can cause premature wear and tear.
Dental Sealants in Gig Harbor, Washington
At Peninsula Family Dentistry, we pride ourselves on our attention to preventive dental care. Our goal is to keep you away from the dental chair as much as possible. If you would like to learn more about how you can protect your smile with a dental sealant, please call our office today at (253) 525-5186.